“The Divorcee” presents the story of Lebia, a young Dukana woman who has returned to her family’s home after her husband orders her out of their house. During three years of marriage, the couple tried to become pregnant but failed to do so. The husband understands, as do others in their society, that the woman is responsible for such a situation. The solution is simply to dissolve the marriage. The complications of this arrangement are that the local custom includes payment of bride price; when the husband dissolves the marriage, the bride’s family must return that price, which can bring financial hardship to them. In addition, the family may be unwilling to take the bride back or, if the parents is dead, there may not be a natal home to which the woman can return.
In Lebia’s case, the narrator states that she is fortunate because her mother was still living and was able and willing to take her back. The public impression that she cannot conceive is also likely to deter any future proposals. In Lebia’s case, she was able to return to her mother. The narrator describes her as an elegant woman, who walks “alone” but “unsmiling.” While most people in her community would view her divorce as far from ideal, she can see some advantages because she understands her marriage as plagued by her husband’s brutality.